Verify Strength, Availability, Readiness for Application

Strength--How Can You Tell a Strong Trademark or Weak Trademark?

SEARCHSearch federal, state, and common law marks to see if the potential trademark or parts of the potential trademark are being used by third parties. An example of part of this search would be a federal search of the terms. Let’s compare World, Green, and Gree for use in trademarks. There are approximately 33,000 USPTO trademark records with the word WORLD as part of the mark. There are approximately 16, 000 USPTO trademark records with the word GREEN as part of the mark. There are approximately 26 USPTO trademark records with the word GREE as part of the mark, most of them playing on the words DEGREE or PEDIGREE. Using GREEN in a mark without disclaiming it will probably result in a refusal for descriptiveness while GREE seems to offer distinctiveness because it has no immediate meaning. Besides being common, WORLD also falls into a category of arbitrary geographic terms that have no meaning and are therefore arbitrary (but hardly distinctive at 33,000+ federal uses).

TMEP 1210.04(d) Arbitrary Use of Geographic Terms

The name of a geographic location that has no significant relation to commercial activities or the production of the relevant goods or services, such as ALASKA for bananas, is treated as an arbitrary mark because it is unlikely that consumers would believe that the mark identifies the place from which the goods originate.

Often, names of mountains or rivers are arbitrary for goods because no commercial activity is performed there. For example, “Colorado River” for candy bars or “Mount Rushmore” for automobiles would be arbitrary. See In re Nantucket, Inc., 677 F.2d 95, 105, 213 USPQ 889, 897 (C.C.P.A. 1982) (Nies, J., concurring) (“Thus, the names of places devoid of commercial activity are arbitrary usage. In this category are names of places such as ANTARCTICA, MOUNT EVEREST, or GALAPAGOS, at least when used for ordinary commercial products, such as beer and shoes. Names such as SUN, WORLD, GLOBE, MARS, or MILKY WAY are also arbitrary, not informational; competitors do not need to use the terms to compete effectively.”).  


Avoiding using common terms as a primary means of distinction is a good rule for developing a strong trademark. One of the goals of a Strong Trademark Registration from Not Just Patents is to reserve the exclusive use of the potential trademark which means verifying that the potential trademark is not already used by prior users (registered  or unregistered) where there could be a likelihood of confusion or where the mark has little distinctiveness.

ANALYZEAnalyzing where the potential mark falls on a distinctiveness continuum. Distinctiveness is the opposite of descriptiveness for trademark purposes. The distinctiveness of trademarks varies along a continuum (often depending on how the trademark is used) from being highly distinctive (or inherently distinctive) to being merely descriptive or generic. Highly distinctive marks that are arbitrary, fanciful or suggestive are registrable on the USPTO Trademark Principal Register. Marks that are merely descriptive matter may potentially be considered to be registered on the Principal Register if they have acquired distinctiveness with Secondary Meaning (must be proven with evidence and/or generally at least 5 years of use). Generic marks (common or class names for goods or services) are not registrable as trademarks under either the Principal or Supplemental Register and receive no common law protection as trademarks.

Other Verifications From Not Just Patents

Verify the RIGHT TO USE the potential trademark--verify the potential trademark has no prior users that may prevent you from registering your mark or who may sue you for using their mark (including users who have abandoned their registration but have not abandoned the mark and have not lost the right to defend their claim) Search federal, state, and common law marks to see if the potential trademark or parts of the potential trademark are being used by third parties. This is where many search services start and end.

Note: The USPTO does NOT determine the right to use a mark, only the right to register a trademark. The USPTO and the TTAB have no authority to determine the right to use, or the broader questions of infringement or unfair competition (TBMP §102.01), but only the right to register on the federal registers. However, the right to use a mark may be challenged by a prior user under the Lanham Act in an opposition to registration, a cancellation proceeding or in federal court. See Trademark Right To Use-Search and Clearance for more information.

Verify the RIGHT TO REGISTER the potential trademark--verify the potential trademark (or service mark) meets USPTO standards for registration. An incomplete list of reasons a trademark can be refused is:

See Grounds for Refusal to see a longer nonexhaustive list of reasons why the USPTO can refuse a registration.

Verify the mark FUNCTIONS AS A MARK (indicates origin and distinguishes such goods/services from those manufactured and sold by others) in applicable specimens of the mark--verify it meets USPTO standards for a trademark rather than just being a collection of mere words or symbols that do not justify legal protection as a trademark (see Acceptable Specimen for more information);

Verify the registration ID of Goods and Services is both the correct and maximum claim that are user can make, verify that the Goods and Services ID meets USPTO ID requirements before filing and verify that the specimen of use meets “USE IN COMMERCE” requirements before filing a basis (i.e. Was the use a bona fide sale or transportation in commerce which may lawfully be regulated by Congress?).  See How Do I Know What Filing Basis to Use? for more information.

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Minneapolis, MN 55418


Call 1-651-500-7590 or email for Responses to Office Actions; File or Defend an Opposition or Cancellation; Trademark Searches and Applications; Send or Respond to Cease and Desist Letters.

For more information from Not Just Patents, see our other sites:      

Steps to a Patent    How to Patent An Invention

Should I Get A Trademark or Patent?

Trademark e Search    Strong Trademark     Enforcing Trade Names

Common Law Trademarks  Trademark Goodwill   Abandoned Trademarks

Chart of Patent vs. Trade Secret

Patent or Trademark Assignments

Trademark Disclaimers   Trademark Dilution     TSDR Status Descriptors

Oppose or Cancel? Examples of Disclaimers  Business Cease and Desist

Patent, Trademark & Copyright Inventory Forms

Verify a Trademark  Be First To File    How to Trademark Search

Are You a Content Provider-How to Pick an ID  Specimens: webpages

How to Keep A Trade Secret

State & Federal Trade Secret Laws

Using Slogans (Taglines), Model Numbers as Trademarks

Which format? When Should I  Use Standard Characters?

Opposition Pleadings    UDRP Elements    

Oppositions-The Underdog    Misc Changes to TTAB Rules 2017

How To Answer A Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

Converting Provisional to Nonprovisional Patent Application (or claiming benefit of)

Trademark Refusals    Does not Function as a Mark Refusals

Insurance Extension  Advantages of ®

How to Respond to Office Actions  Final Refusal

What is a Compact Patent Prosecution?

Acceptable Specimen       Supplemental Register   $224 Statement of Use

How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f)

Trademark-Request for Reconsideration

Why Not Just Patents? Functional Trademarks   How to Trademark     

What Does ‘Use in Commerce’ Mean?    

Grounds for Opposition & Cancellation     Cease and Desist Letter

Trademark Incontestability  TTAB Manual (TBMP)

Valid/Invalid Use of Trademarks     Trademark Searching

TTAB/TBMP Discovery Conferences & Stipulations

TBMP 113 Service of TTAB Documents  TBMP 309 Standing

Examples and General Rules for Likelihood of Confusion

USPTO Search Method for Likelihood of Confusion

Examples of Refusals for Likelihood of Confusion   DuPont Factors

What are Dead or Abandoned Trademarks?

 Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?

Color as Trade Dress  3D Marks as Trade Dress  

Can I Abandon a Trademark During An Opposition?

Differences between TEAS and TEAS plus  

How do I Know If Someone Has Filed for An Extension of Time to Oppose?

Ornamental Refusal  Standard TTAB Protective Order

SCAM Letters Surname Refusal

What Does Published for Opposition Mean?

What to Discuss in the Discovery Conference

Descriptive Trademarks  

Likelihood of Confusion 2d  TMOG Trademark Tuesday

Acquired Distinctiveness  2(f) or 2(f) in part

Merely Descriptive Trademarks  

Merely Descriptive Refusals

ID of Goods and Services see also Headings (list) of International Trademark Classes

Register a Trademark-Step by Step  

Protect Business Goodwill Extension of Time to Oppose

Geographically Descriptive or Deceptive

Change of Address with the TTAB using ESTTA

Likelihood of confusion-Circuit Court tests

Pseudo Marks    How to Reply to Cease and Desist Letter

Not Just Patents Often Represents the Underdog

 Overcome Merely Descriptive Refusal   Overcome Likelihood Confusion

Protecting Trademark Rights (Common Law)

Steps in a Trademark Opposition Process   

Section 2(d) Refusals

Zombie Trademark  

What is the Difference between Principal & Supplemental Register?

Typical Brand Name Refusals  What is a Family of Marks? What If Someone Files An Opposition Against My Trademark?

How to Respond Office Actions  

DIY Overcoming Descriptive Refusals

Trademark Steps Trademark Registration Answers TESS  

Trademark Searching Using TESS  Trademark Search Tips

Trademark Clearance Search   DIY Trademark Strategies

Published for Opposition     What is Discoverable in a TTAB Proceeding?

Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses

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